February 07, 2007

Crudelitatis mater avaritia est, pater furor.

In English: Greed is the mother of cruelty, and rage the father.

After the proverbs about matres and patres over the past few days, I thought this would be a good illustration of the same pattern in a fuller form! Today's proverb is about cruelty, crudelitas. Who is the mother of cruelty? That would be greed, avaritia. And who is the father of cruelty? That would be rage, furor.

In other words, when someone is both greedy and enraged, they are likely to engage in acts of cruelty! A scary thought, expressed very vividly with this metaphor of one set of emotions giving birth to a specific type of action. The phrase is cited as an example by the grammarian Publius Rutilius Lupus.)

The reason that avaritia is the "mother" is simply becuase avaritia is a feminine noun. Likewise, furor is the "father" of cruelty because furor is a masculine noun.

Another typical feature of this particular proverb is the use of parallelism, which allows a word to be implied but not repeated. If you were to spell it out fully, the proverb would read crudelitatis mater avaritia est, CRUDELITATIS pater furor EST. In most Latin sentences, especially in poetic or highly stylized sentences (e.g., in proverbs), there is a tendency to suppress words that can be supplied from context. In this proverb, the grammatical parallel of mater-pater and avaritia-furor makes it possible to omit the words crudelitatis and est from the second half of the saying.

For those of you who are Latin teachers, I would urge you to use this kind of proverb as a pattern to let your students write their very own proverbs! All they have to do is find the "mother" and "father" emotions (with correct gender!), and then say what the "child" of those emotions would be! Just to take one example, entirely invented by me: felicitatis mater fortuna est, pater labor, "Luck is the mother of happiness, and hard work the father."

Just a thought for easy - and fun - Latin composition in the classroom! If you want to contribute some mother-father proverbs of your own invention, please feel free to post them in the comments area of this blog!

Meanwhile, hoping to inspire you to create your own sayings, so here is today's proverb read out loud:

302. Crudelitatis mater avaritia est, pater furor.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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